Crash carts. Emergency surgeries. Bedside care. What do you think about when you picture working in healthcare? Yes, those things that appear in medical dramas are part of the world of healthcare, but a whole other side exists that’s less likely to appear on the screen.
“Doctors and nurses are commonly the first people who come to mind in healthcare and they are very important to any healthcare operation. However, an equally important part belongs to those individuals working behind the scenes to coordinate the positioning of the critical pieces that make the entire machine move forward,” says Christopher C. Pratt, Department Chair of Healthcare Management and Administration at South University, Online Programs. “Those individuals are the administrators and managers.”
Coordinating Care Amidst Extraordinary Circumstances
The healthcare administration and management field encompasses many diverse roles. Managers and administrators can work with various teams or specialize in one area like human resources, marketing, patient care services, government relations or information systems. Generally, managers focus more on personnel decisions and supervision, while administrators have a wider scope of responsibilities that includes organizational strategy and vision.
Yet, in any position – from project manager to department director to CEO – when you work in healthcare, you need to be prepared for anything. Healthcare managers and administrators are crucial in planning for and responding to all manner of situations to ensure that their organization and staff continue to deliver quality care.
Before moving full-time to higher education, Pratt worked for over a decade with health departments in Michigan and Florida. As Director of Field Operations / Operations Chief for the Florida Department of Health: Duval County, his expertise was put to the test in scenarios that ranged from supporting the department through a tuberculosis outbreak in the homeless population to participating in clinical leadership and emergency response activities during hurricanes and tropical storms.
For any such scenario, being a skilled communicator is a major key to success. “You’re collaborating with other agencies on your emergency plan and then translating that information to your staff, so you must be adept at being clear and concise in every communication,” explains Pratt.
Consistently showing up and supporting your team is also essential. “It’s one thing to sit in an office and say you do this or you do that, and it’s another thing to be on the front lines,” he says. “When employees see administrators willing to go through the same thing that they’re experiencing, that does a lot in boosting their confidence and encouraging them to take their ownership of their roles.”
Accomplishing Goals as a Leader and Problem Solver
Even on an average day, healthcare administrators and managers make a huge difference in the ability of an organization to provide care to the community it serves. “Organizations that run smoothly do so because of the efforts of administrators and managers who carefully plan and manage the facilities and services to maintain quality,” says Pratt.
To ensure that their organizations provide efficient, high-quality care, these healthcare professionals may lead or help with:
- Developing organizational or team goals, objectives and strategies
- Ensuring compliance with healthcare laws and regulations
- Recruiting, training and supervising staff, including creating work schedules
- Managing finances, including patient fees and billing
- Planning and overseeing budgets and spending
- Maintaining and organizing records, including tracking and analyzing information like the number of beds available and daily hospital admissions
- Communicating with medical staff members and other healthcare leaders
Each of these tasks requires critical thinking and decision making that takes into consideration the input of those around you. “Good administrators listen to individuals on the front line and to the managers of those teams. They use that feedback and information to make decisions that accomplish not only the organization’s goals but also provide staff with what they need to do their work,” asserts Pratt.
Helping to achieve such goals is rarely a one-person job. Often, it’s less about your own ingenuity as it is your ability to bring the right people together in the right room to work through an issue and make a decision.
Compassion and understanding are additional requirements for healthcare leaders. “You don’t have to agree but you need to be willing to understand different perspectives and points of view,” Pratt says. “Even if you can’t address every concern, your staff will feel more appreciated when their opinions are heard and considered."
For Pratt, the best part of healthcare management and administration has always been solving problems for organizations and individuals. “You are put in a position of leadership because of your ability to listen, decipher information and problem solve. When you move an initiative from planning to implementation to seeing positive returns, that’s a good feeling because you solved some sort of problem,” he says. “No matter what the exact job, the health field is always about helping people and solving problems.”